An Argument Has Erupted over the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" and Its Homophobic Slur

"Why is a song in which a straight woman tosses out a homophobic slur still on YouTube?"
An Argument Has Erupted over the Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York' and Its Homophobic Slur
When it comes to classic Christmas songs, the Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" ranks high among them. However, the 1988 song is sparking some serious debate over its use of a homophobic slur.

Sung by Pogues leader Shane MacGowan and the late Kirsty McColl, the song features a verse that plays out as follows:

You're a bum / You're a punk / You're an old slut on junk / Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed / You scumbag, you maggot / You cheap lousy faggot / Happy Christmas your arse / I pray God it's our last.

As a new article headlined "Dear straight people, stop singing the word 'faggot' in Fairytale of New York" written by Tom Haynes for The Tab now argues, that use of "faggot" crosses a very real line and should be removed, saying it's just "as bad as using the N-word."

In the piece, Haynes writes:

It's a scene not unlike what you'll see in any bar nearing closing time in December. The Pogues (fronted by Shane MacGowan and featuring Kirsty McColl) track is laser-targeted towards heaving crowds of pre-Christmas drinks; reuniting with old friends, getting with new ones, celebrating how much of a mess you are amidst the crystalline perfection of Christmas adverts, dazzling decorations, and idyllic family life. People love the "faggot" line. Like Dawn, they gear up to sing it to their mate in an endearing "you're a bit of a state, but I love you" kind of way.

"All I Want for Christmas Is You" notwithstanding, "Fairytale of New York" slaps to the extent that it's the only Christmas song you actually want to hear on a night out. That blend of Christmassy wholesomeness and drunken slurring ensures it will always appeal to tragic student pub crawls, and guarantees it'll straddle Radio 1 and 2 for the rest of time. The "faggot" line is predictably censored on radio, but that won't stop straight people singing it at the top of their lungs when it comes on in the pub. Only when you take a step back does something seem off with that picture in 2018.

Haynes also then argues this: "Why then, despite Kirsty McColl not being gay, is 'Fairytale of New York,' a song in which a straight woman tosses out a homophobic slur, still on YouTube? Groups of straight people never get called out for singing 'faggot' in 'Fairytale of New York' when they're out in public, and that's not because it's uncommon."

He later then adds:

For some, 'faggot' is just another weapon turned against homophobes, a way to way to snigger at 'the straights' being bone-headed and ignorant. But for others it will always evoke very specific memories of being bullied either online or in real life, or having to listen to their mates band it about as an insult. For certain members of the LGBT community, that one word might have screwed over their entire coming out process. Regardless, whether your gay mate gets annoyed over you singing it to him at 1am isn't up to you, but whether or not you chose to sing it is.

Haynes has called on YouTube to remove the video from its platform, but as could be expected, the article has stirred up quite the debate — both its comments section, as well as Twitter, has blown up over the issue.

In the comments section of the piece, some Facebook users have highlighted the fact that MacGowan and McColl were referring to the old Irish slang word, which means a lazy person, when they wrote the song.

"'Fairytale of New York' was written by an Irishman. 'Faggot' is an old Irish slang word for a lazy person or a waster, and that's the meaning that Shane McGowan intended when he wrote the song. Nothing to do with homophobia," one commenter wrote.

Another, meanwhile, posted, "Sorry as a gay man it doesn't offend me. Never has never will. Some people just need to get over themselves."

But a Facebook user named Chris Brosnahan commented, "As someone who got called quite a lot of names in the 90s at school, 'faggot' did not mean 'lazy.' And the Pogues were British-Irish, gigging in London. In Fairytale of New York, the idea that 'faggot' wasn't abusive is a transparent attempt to rewrite history."

It hardly stops there, though, with some people now demanding a petition to get the offensive word removed from the song. Down below, you can see more of the debate play out via Twitter.

You can — and should — read Haynes' full piece over here.